"It seems my presence has changed you, Caim."
The warrior looked up from examining his sword. Really? How so? It was not a voice, but a thought. No sounds had passed his lips for some time now. But he had learnt not to resent it as he first had. It got annoying sometimes, as he couldn't communicate with the other party members, and had to rely on his pact-partner to translate. And she had a tendency to mangle his words, which still got the message across, but only barely.
"Well, you don't seem to have anymore dreams. Bad ones, anyway."
Caim looked up at the red dragon in surprise. You know of what I dream?
"I can read your mind…" she reminded him.
He stared at the ground, avoiding eye contact, a rather difficult feat considering her eye was bigger than his fist. Then you saw…
"Think nothing of it. I don't. Although, I admit it is rather disturbing sometimes. I see it through your eyes and feel what you do, so…"
Staring so hard at the ground he could've buried into it, he mumbled, I'm sorry.
The huge golden eyes blinked. "Caim? Sorry? Gods, is the world ending already?"
He glared at her and turned his attention back to his sword. Despite what everyone thought, he did have a heart. It was just buried underneath so much hatred and anger that it took a lot to get a little out. She knew this, and also knew that it was worth it. It was the effort that made it that much better, and it was starting to get easier. He had calmed during their journey together, and had begun to talk more, and she had been surprised. For a bloodthirsty warrior bent on destroying the Empire single-handedly, he was actually a very thoughtful man. He had hit a rough spot after Arioch the elf tried to eat him, but the bond between the two was slowly strengthening.
It was a beautiful day, with the sun a'shining and the birds a'chirping and general sunny, flowery happiness. And, for once, they had the time to enjoy it. Which Caim seemed to be refusing to do.
The she-dragon stretched her wings and lay her head down beside him, curling up round him much like a cat would, if a cat were huge, scaly, fire-breathing and sarcastic. "What a nice day, don't you think?" When he didn't respond, she butted him in the back, sending him rolling down the hill and flying into a bush. "Caim?"
Climbing out of the shrub with as much dignity as possible, he picked up and sheathed his sword and pointedly turned away from her. She realised it was because of her earlier remark.
"It was a joke?"
"I didn't mean it?"
"Fine. Be like that. Just don't expect to wake up with all your body parts tomorrow."
The mute shrugged. I prefer the rain.
Interested, she picked him up delicately with her teeth, setting him down beside her, inside the ring created by her head and tail. He leant back against her cheek, absently rubbing her nose. Between purrs she asked, "Why the rain?"
It's cold, it's beautiful, it's cleansing…and when it rains, everything is quieter. What's not to like?
She snorted, singeing the grass before her and frying a few insects. "It's wet, it's cold, it's wet, it's hell to fly in…oh, and it's wet." She did not like rain. It dampened her fire and made it harder than it already was to fly.
He rolled his ocean-blue eyes. Of course you would say that. You're a dragon. And a red one at that.
She hmphed and closed her eyes. After a while she growled. "Just because I'm ignoring you doesn't mean you can stop."
He gave a dramatic sigh, or what would have been one if he were able to make a noise. That's it, isn't it. You don't like me. You just want me to keep you alive and pet you every now and again.
"Your point being…?"
Unable to find an answer, he gave up and rubbed her nose. The dragon purred softly, causing the ground to tremble.
Opening an eye lazily, her gaze met the human's. "And all you want me for is to burn a few Empire soldiers."
Scratching her between the horns, he shrugged. It works, doesn't it?
They both quietened, simply enjoying the scenery, the weather, the natural music and – though they'd kill you for suggesting it – each other's company. For that was what had happened. Before she had hated him, but he was steadily growing on her. A few days ago, to her horror, she found herself missing him when he left to fight on the ground. Dragons weren't meant to feel anything for humans. They were to be used, then killed. It was the natural order of things. But she didn't want to do that, and not because it would put her own life in danger.
In fact, she had grown so attached to him she was thinking about showing him another benefit of the pact. She was afraid to do it, because it meant allowing him to see…Yet she had done it to him, or a shadow of it, when she had watched his dreams.
Sensing something wrong with his pact-partner, he tapped her cheek. What's wrong?
It was a long while before she replied, her mind made up. "Caim, I have…a surprise for you. Tonight…yes, tonight, meet me here. Don't tell the others"
And with that, she took off.
Caim watched the singed grass from earlier, contemplating. Meet her tonight, here? Don't tell anyone? What was she planning?
Curious, the warrior returned at night to the moonlit hill, stepping cautiously over the sleeping party. At one point he hit his funny bone on a tree, but because of his pact-price, he was able to shout and swear as much as he liked. Sometimes, a handicap could be a blessing.
He could easily make out the dragon's form, standing tall and proud atop the hill, the tree filtering the moonlight, separating it into thousands of ribbons. Each sliver of light seemed to accentuate the dragon – a fiery scale, a golden horn, flashing amber eyes…she looked magnificent, beautiful even, yet there was something beneath it…something wild…
Dragon? You wanted to see me?
She turned her head, fixing him with her burning gaze. "Caim, there is something I want to show you. But first, can I trust you?"
What? What do you mean?
She hesitated, and he caught the shadow of anxiety flicker in her eyes. "Are you willing to open my eyes? Will you run with my feet, fly with my wings?"
I…I don't understand…dragon…?
"Just…just say yes."
Confused, he watched her carefully. Alright, yes. Now, will you tell me what's going on?
She moved forwards, brushing his forehead with her snout. "Close your eyes, Caim. Close your eyes, and listen to my voice."
I guess not…but he did as he was told, waiting in the dark for her.
Her voice whispered in his mind, like it always did when they were apart. Reach out with your mind. Let it find and bond with my own.
Shrugging mentally, he sent out his mind. Well, tried to. It was proving a lot harder than he thought.
It's just like when you talk to me, but throw your whole mind behind it.
It was amazing. All of a sudden, his mind felt free of its restrictions, and a strange peace settled over him. It was still dark, but suddenly the world burst into sound. There were hundreds, no thousands of thoughts, all crying out, surrounding him. Overwhelmed by the sound, he retreated to his own…body?...again.
Block them out. Search only for mine. Ignore them, and they shall leave you.
Cautious, he left his confinement once more, this time closing himself off from the so many thoughts, till only the sentient ones remained. Now, all he had to do was find the right one. It took a while.
First there was Arioch, dreaming of her children, closely followed by undine and salamander. Seere, thinking of his sister, with golem deep beneath the earth, thoughts as slow and unstoppable as the growing mountains. Leonard wracked with guilt, and his…thing. The annoying little buzzing thing that called itself a fairy.
Finally he found a presence that felt like the dragon's, and tentatively sent out tendrils. Yep, it was her; he could practically see the sarcasm dripping from her.
More confident, he sent his mind speeding towards hers…and crashed into a wall.
Ow…! What was that! Are you trying to kill me?
Sorry…I've never done this with anyone before. Well, not any human, anyway.
That's okay…wait. You have no idea what you're doing!
Dragons, humans, their minds all have the same basic structure. We just use our brains more and don't try to rip each other apart and call it morality.
We're not all like that.
Oh? How am I supposed to know that, with such a fine example?
Ah ha. Yes, terribly funny.
Who's joking? Now, hang on a moment. I'll lower the barrier.
A few seconds later, he found a small entrance in the seemingly impregnable wall. It seemed to be beckoning him, drawing him in…
There was no explosion. There wasn't even a 'wmph' as the two completely different yet exactly the same minds joined. Just a sort of…pushing sensation as the dragon shouldered him out of the way.
Surprising…it's actually quite big. You're very poetic, Caim. Red Angel? Is that me?
He didn't like her rummaging around in his mind. He told her so, quite firmly.
I just wanted to get to know you better. I don't want to find out that my eternal pact-partner is a bloodthirsty psycho that's driven only by revenge…oh damn, you are.
Shoving her prying tendrils away, he asked, so what now?
A piece of her mind wrapped round him, pulling him towards something. Once there she released him.
Caim. Open your eyes.
He noticed the slight excitement in her voice, and did as bid carefully. Everything he had experienced before couldn't prepare him for what happened next. The world looked the same, yet somehow…different. The sky was darker, the stars brighter, everything clearer, cleaner…purer...
It was beautiful. Amazed, he directed his sight to the side, gaze falling upon…his own body, fast asleep. Quite understandably, he shouted. Very loudly. Very…dragony. His scream echoed throughout the vicinity, decidedly feminine.
He was pushed away and the dragon quietened the voice.
Gods! You almost woke the dead with that! Partnered with an idiot…I deserve more.
Oh, I'm sorry. It's just that my BODY is lying in front of me, I can talk, and it's a bloody DRAGON'S voice! I think I'm allowed to be surprised.
Yes, but do you have to be so vocal? I mean, really…
He rolled his…well, the eyes.
Look, what's happening?
The answer was quite simple.
You are in my mind.
He blinked. The world stayed the same. He blinked again. His body stayed where it was. He shook his head vigorously. The scenery refused to return to its normal, un-vibrant state.
How long are you planning to do that?She asked, clearly amused.
So that's what you meant with the whole 'open my eyes' thing. Basically, I'm a dragon.
I guess that will do for a human.
Cool. He stopped suddenly, realising he had more bits than before. Hang on. You're a female dragon.
That means I'm…wow. How do you concentrate with so much going on?
She chuckled softly, them murmured in his mind again. Tell me, Caim. Do you know truly what it's like to fly?
Dragon eyes widened. Do you mean…?
He sensed her smile. Unfold our wings, Caim. That's it…now, flap them. Can you feel the power?
He felt the raw magic course through their body, burning, refreshing, making their body tingle and crackle with energy. Jump off the cliff, and at the last possible moment I want you to open our wings.
He looked at the small drop from the top of the hill. Are you sure, he asked doubtfully. It's not very high…
If it were any higher, you'd kill us.
Point. Taking a deep breath, feeling it fill their huge lungs, he ran as fast as he could to the very edge of the hill, coiled the huge muscles in their legs…and leapt. It was amazing…up until the point when gravity reminded them who was boss in this world. The ground started rushing up towards them, and he panicked.
Open our wings!
Oh yeah…spreading the huge leathery wings, he gasped as they were nearly wrenched from their sockets. Gritting his teeth, he pushed down as hard as he could, powerful muscles fighting against the force. After a tense moment, he felt the magic kick in, aiding him as the wings beat again, pushing him up into the sky. Flying higher, he laughed, forgetting that he was no longer mute. It was a special moment, one he wanted to remember for the rest of his life.
Fool. You waited too long.
He sighed. Can't you ever congratulate me?
The rest of that night, she helped him as he learnt the various manoeuvres that she used in battle. He hadn't realised how much split-second timing it took to perform the most simplest move.
I never knew…
It was like a dream, soaring above the clouds, flying into the perfect sky. He felt like he could reach the moon. There was such power! Such control, such magic as the huge beast not only stayed airborne, but preformed moves that not even the most agile bird could do. Body and mind light and carefree, he let loose a roar, laughing wildly as the earth seemed to shake from the mighty bellow. Birds scattered, wolves howled…and far below he saw the other people in his party looking up in confusion as a red thunderbolt dived from the heavens. Caim often went on midnight flights with the dragon, loving the peace and freedom it offered. Even then he had admired it, but this…this was completely different. This was wild.
This is…dragon, this is…
I was hoping you'd like it. You're getting better at flying now. Suddenly the pair realised it was getting late. They both sighed, but then the dragon spoke up again, mischievousness creeping into her thoughts. Lets see what your landing's like.
I have a feeling I should be scared.
Crazy and smart? I'm impressed.
I have to be when dealing with you lot.
Chuckling, she allowed him to steer their body to the hill. Now. Circle like the birds do…that's it. Flare your wings and use your tail to break…not like that! Try again. And flare…try not to squish you…brace yourself.
There was an 'oof' as the dragon landed, stumbling slightly. Just before the body was sent flying head over talons down the hill, she took over, balancing the huge body, smoothening the landing.
I think that went quite well for a first, he commented calmly after getting his wits back.
I hate to see your worst…
They stayed together in that same body for a while, but eventually Caim found himself yawning a dragon yawn. Reluctantly he withdrew from her mind, re-entering his own body once more. When he opened his eyes, everything seemed dull and lifeless. Except…except the dragon. If anything, she seemed more…vibrant than before. Her whole body seemed to glow in the dim light, scales glittering as if she were covered with the most perfect rubies. Dragging his heavy, earthbound body over to the tree, he leant against it, yawning again.
"Sleep, my fool. I don't want you falling off my back." her voice was normal now, outside his mind.
He would have said something, but fatigue dragged him under. He managed to say exactly two words before passing out, physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
She watched her human sleeping soundly, face peaceful and happy. It was the first time she had ever seen him truly happy, without causing pain. He looked…sweet. Her human…yes. He was hers now. Their fates were joined when the pact took place, and now their minds and souls were bound eternally by their flight. Only the closest of pact-partners trusted each other enough to allow it, and few liked it. Curling up beside the man, she spread her wings protectively over him, keeping guard. The world would work properly and efficiently with humans controlling it long before she willingly let him be hurt. His words whispered in her mind, warming her heart, making her body tingle, just like when he rubbed her snout.
He awoke with a start, soaked in sweat. No more, he begged. No more… No more remembering. No more dreaming. She was gone.
Staring up at the night sky, he sighed. Memories flooded his mind, of a night much like this, thirteen years ago. Seeing the world through a dragon's eyes – the ultimate experience. Flying above the clouds with her, feeling the freedom only she could reach. Tears stung his eyes, but he refused to let them fall. He had cried for her the day she had left him. The only tears he would ever allow to shed were for her.
Thirteen years…what was it that made him miss her so much? What feelings could humans possibly share with dragons? It was like what he had felt for his sister, but deeper…so much deeper…
Love? Maybe. Not all love was kisses and hugs. Some went beyond that. And some…some were soul bound. He felt that was it. He couldn't imagine life without her – he still couldn't. It was all he could do to keep living. He didn't know why he did. It was for her. I miss you, Angelus…
Angelus. His crimson angel with an attitude. He really did miss the old overgrown lizard. Somehow, with her gone, he felt so…empty. Just like before he had met her, but so much more terrible, so much more frightening. He needed her. It was like a one-sided coin. It just…didn't exist.
Suddenly something in his mind seemed to reawaken. A voice screamed in his head.
No! I didn't do it for you! I didn't do it for any of you! Only for him! Caim! Ah, gods it hurts!
He looked up. That voice…
Stop it! Please, make it stop! What have you done with him!
Angelus! It was her! It was! But Verdelet said she was gone…
Verdelet! You lying bastard! I'll kill you! I'll burn you to ash! BRING HIM BACK!
He clung to the frenzied screams, trying to reach her mind, to find out where she was. But a wall of fury blocked her mind from even him. Angelus! Heart crying, he tried to find her, but it was impossible. Her screams ripped his soul apart – even through the weakened link he could feel her pain.
Her voice disappeared, leaving Caim alone in his head. She was still alive. She was in pain. She was calling for him.
He had to find her.
A year later he managed to track down Verdelet. The coward said he was imagining things, but Caim knew when someone lied. Caim knew all about lying and guilt. He may not have been able to talk, but his eyes expressed more than any words could. Knights of the Seal…five districts…
He left the priest cowering in a deserted alleyway. The lying bastard didn't deserve to die by his blade.
Anger could only last so long. It could get you far, rage, but once it burned out…Caim hated that feeling. The emptiness, the tiredness…it was all too much. Before Angelus, he had tried to smother it in more violence, but it only led him deeper into it. Angelus had offered him a haven, taking him on midnight flights, showing him how to deal with the black void that always plagued him. But now there was no one there. Not his parents, not his sister, not Angelus…
He had always known, really. But only now did he realise that it was the absolute truth; that he would end the world to see his pact-partner again. Give up anything – no, everything – just to hear her mocking him again. Destroying the seals meant putting the fragile balance in danger, but she was hurting. Who knew how much pain she was suffering whilst he tossed and turned in his sleeping-bag, unable to rest without her warm hide beneath his head?
Another year after that, he had slaughtered thousands, returning to the bloodthirsty creature he had first been. Only now the monster had a purpose.
The people who had once praised his name now cursed it. The people he had once travelled with disowned him completely. He didn't care. His hair grew longer and shaggy, his chin shadowed, his eyes wild. Appearance meant nothing to him. It was a waste of time, time he could've spent searching for her freedom. He lost his left eye. Didn't care. A little pain was nothing. Even if he were blinded and crippled, he would still drag his body to her. Nothing would stop him finding her.
He had been worried at first that breaking the seals wouldn't help. But when he neared a district's location, he heard a voice.
He grinned wildly – like a demon, one would say if they saw him. A fallen angel driven by a single need.
Soon, my angel. Soon…